Creating Trust in the Refugee Community - One Meal at a Time

Story by Julie Leebove, Volunteer, Denver, Colorado

When most people think of the American Red Cross, they often think of disaster relief or blood drives, but the Red Cross does so much more than that.  These other services range from supporting military families to providing education on International Humanitarian Law.  Another service of the Red Cross is Restoring Family Links (RFL). This program helps reconnect loved ones who have been separated internationally by conflict, migration, disaster, and other humanitarian crises.

Attending events is one way to reach people who may have a need for the reconnecting families services of the Red Cross.

Attending events is one way to reach people who may have a need for the reconnecting families services of the Red Cross.

Outreach for this service is crucial, so we connect with potential clients through a variety of creative channels – including attending special events.

One such event this summer celebrated the refugee community in Colorado Springs.  The event drew more than 90 people from nearly a dozen countries, including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bhutan, Myanmar, Liberia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Hosted by Lutheran Family Services, this potluck-style dinner served dishes from around the world to bring together different cultures and people.

While everyone enjoyed their food, the American Red Cross was given the opportunity to share our reconnecting families services. Afterwards, a Liberian woman approached the Red Cross table asking if we could help locate her family who she lost contact with in 1990 due to the civil war. Such an immediate connection to a person in need provides gratifying proof of the effectiveness of direct outreach to the community.

The Colorado Springs potluck provided an opportunity to connect with the local community.

The Colorado Springs potluck provided
an opportunity to connect with the local community.

Our outreach goes beyond attending cultural events; it also involves developing sustainable relationships with community organizations. Creating a relationship of trust as well as a reputation of dependability allows the program to grow and prosper.

As this service requires clients to provide sensitive information on themselves and their families, it is extremely important for us to build trust with our local communities. When clients come in asking for our services, we want them to feel comfortable sharing their stories. Going to the community and building relationships through outreach is one way we create that security.

Outreach is an ongoing process that requires dedication to communities served and people affected. As we advance outreach for the reconnecting families services of the Red Cross, we continuously seek new opportunities while equally investing in our current relationships.

For more information on the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies.

For more stories from the American Red Cross Colorado Region, please click here.